Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday Recipe: East Meats West

The other day, I was craving meatloaf and then, of course, I reminded myself that I don’t really like meatloaf and that the only proper purpose for ground beef is to make a proper burger. But still, something about the texture and the homey comfort of a childhood favorite was calling to me. Of course, when I was a kid, I liked all manner of foods that don’t really stand up all that well to an adult palate -- freeze-pops and Big Macs, Campbell’s canned soup and tuna cassarole. They all seem so good in theory I suspect because such strong memories are attached to them. Our recollections are tainted, not to be trusted. In a good way, perhaps, but they are not to be trusted nonetheless.

For instance, my favorite meal when I was sick was Campbell’s cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches (made with Velveeta and Town Talk bread, yo.) But the idea of that exact meal? Do I really want that now? Not so much, actually.
For Pittsburghers old enough to remember Winky’s (for those not, it can best be described as the poor man’s McDonald’s), my great-grandmother loved ‘Wink’s’ (as she said it.) So my grandmother would take both of us, Gram and me, to Winky’s and we would eat their fish sandwiches (just imagine the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish and add a drop more grease and you get the idea.) I loved it. Did I love the sandwich? Or spending time with Grammie and Gram? Probably a lot of both, but even if I could eat Winky’s -- let’s just say the idea of the ‘Wink’s’ fish sandwich gives me severe stomach cramps.

I suspected the same thing was at work with my meatloaf craving and, if I was being really honest, I knew that, had I made a traditional beef meatloaf, I’d end up tossing most of it. Liberal changes were in order, the first of which was working with ground turkey instead of ground beef. Of course, the challenges of working with ground turkey are many, but the two biggest stumbling blocks are:  (a) it dries out easily and (2) it is largely flavorless.

To deal with the drying issue, I added some sauteed vegetables. I also used fresh breadcrumbs. (It seems I always have about one-third of a loaf of Breadworks bread drying out on my butcher’s block, so into the food processor that went.) An old loaf of bread doesn’t shred as finely as supermarket breadcrumbs and if you go this route, you'll end up with larger chunks of bread, which in this case, is a good thing. If you don’t have an old loaf of good bread, I’d substitute panko breadcrumbs. You don’t want those dried out, fine as dust breadcrumbs or you’ll have to wash this meal down with about five gallons of water.

As to the flavor, I decided to take an asian bent on the meatloaf, to add some familiar flavors, but flavors we don’t normally associate with meatloaf. I ended up with a meatloaf for a grown up, with a rich, spicy goodness that I thoroughly enjoyed. It will, no doubt, be in regular rotation in my house.

You will need:
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of ground white meat turkey
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 carrot (large carrot or 2 small), finely diced
½ large sweet yellow onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
about 1 to 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs
3 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons of sambal olek (use more or less depending on how much heat you like)
1 tablespoon of ketchup (Heinz, naturally)
1 teaspoon of worchestershire sauce
small pinch of salt

Get to work:
After you’ve diced the garlic, celery, carrots and onion, pre-heat the oven to 350. Then heat a non-stick sautee pan, add a drizzle of oil (use whatever you like -- I used olive oil, but veg. oil would be fine for this recipe) and sautee the veg until they are just soft.

In a large bowl, mix together the cooked veg., the ground turkey and the rest of the ingredients (except the sriracha). You want the mixture to be soft, but still firm enough to form into a loaf.

On a cookie sheet, form your mixture into a loaf. Drizzle sriracha over the top. I used a good amount of sriracha, but then, I eat fire, so, you know, adjust to your taste.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes. It’s excellent with some simply cooked asian vegetables, like bok choy. And it makes for killer sandwiches the next day.


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